November 01, 2014

The New Separatists

Even as Russia encourages “federalization” in Ukraine (which could enable the rebellious eastern Ukrainian regions to tip into the Russian political orbit), it is jailing persons who dare call for decentralization at home, even if they are only using humor to make a point.

This summer, the BBC interviewed Novosibirsk activist Artyom Loskutov, a performance artist known for staging bizarre absurdist rallies called “monstrations.” In the interview, Loskutov mentioned an upcoming demonstration, “The March for the Federalization of Siberia” (organized by someone else), the main slogan for which was “Stop feeding Moscow,” an ironic spin on the “Stop feeding the Caucasus” chant often used by Russian nationalists. The purpose of the pro-federalization march was supposedly to address the issue that oil- and gas-rich Siberia gets less back in government development resources than it contributes in revenues.

In response, Roskomnadzor, the state’s internet watchdog, warned that it might block the BBC’s website if the interview with Loskutov was not removed. The BBC scoffed, refusing to drop the piece. Meanwhile, activists promoting the Siberian march had their social networking pages blocked; several organizers were detained and threatened in phone calls; and one of the activists reportedly discovered the severed head of a sheep on his doorstep

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